Child care cuts and kindergarten readiness

photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group

Readers, how I’ve neglected you this week… I blame the impossibly complex nature of California’s child care system, which faces a 20 percent cut for the upcoming fiscal year.

I’ve spent the last 48 hours trying to figure out what the governor’s May budget revision would mean for working families (mostly single parents and their kids) and the system as a whole, how it differs from the original budget proposal in January, and how the different programs work now. In addition to tracking down facts and figures, I’ve been interviewing people from around the Bay Area who receive child care subsidies — and, finally, trying to put it all together into a somewhat readable format. (I don’t normally include acknowledgements, but Carlise King, the research director for the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network, must have devoted almost as time as I did in this endeavor, helping me find those numbers and very, very patiently explaining what they meant.)

You can read the story here.

As I talked to parents, including a single dad from San Ramon whose quote didn’t make it into the story, I was struck by the reality of single parenthood. All of the people I interviewed had white collar jobs — an administrative assistant, a facilities manager, an insurance salesman/customer service rep. If the proposal is enacted, all of them will lose their child care subsidies.

If that happens, the dad from San Ramon and his daughter will probably move in with Grandma in Discovery Bay; the administrative assistant will rely on relatives to watch her 3-year-old, rather than an educational setting; and the other mother still hasn’t figured out a Plan B.

Child care is often framed in terms of accessibility — the number of slots available to kids, and eligibility levels for families. But the other side of the equation is the quality of the program. Experts say the proposed cuts are so deep they fear that poor children — even those whose parents retain their benefit — will have access only to the relatives-and-neighbors variety of care, rather than the kind that will get them academically and socially ready for school.

A couple of months ago, I cited a long-term study that shined light on the potential benefits of excellent pre-k programs:

For decades, researchers with the Perry Preschool Study followed a group of 123 low-income African Americans from Ypsilanti, Mich., who were 3 or 4 years old in the 1960s. Some children were randomly assigned to the same high-quality preschool program, and the others weren’t.

When tested at age 5, those in the preschool group were more than twice as likely to have IQs of 90 or higher (67 percent vs. 28 percent) than those who didn’t. By age 14, they were more than three times as likely to have reached a basic achievement level. They were less likely to be placed in special education programs, more likely to graduate from high school and, as adults, to be employed. They were also less likely to be arrested for violent crimes.

The study’s cost-benefit analysis found that for every dollar invested in the preschool program, $16 was returned — $12.90 of it to the public, mostly from crime saving and increased taxes as result of higher earnings.

It seems that the budget crisis has forced California to move in the opposite direction. K-12 teachers: Are you ready for what may lie ahead?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • LK

    First of all, we wouldn’t have a budget crisis if our political system weren’t paralyzed in such a way that it cannot respond to fiscal emergencies. So, we have a political crisis caused by a minority with a rigid, dogmatic belief in tax cutting and market economics, consequences be damned. As a K/1 teacher, I see first hand the students entering the public school system. This year my entering K students had some of the lowest scores on their beginning benchmarks that I can remember. There were fewer students who were enrolled in preschool. The number of students eligible for our local CDC was drastically reduced and I think many parents just kept their students home as a result. The dearth of free or low-priced preschool is really going to disadvantage our children in title I schools (where I work) as the education standards are only getting tougher, especially with the Common Core coming down the pike. What preschool does for children is it exposes them to language and school structures that make them more ready for “big” school. In other words, they can hit the ground running when they enter kindergarten. The other important function of quality preschool is to identify those children who need special services, i.e. speech. For example, several of our entering K students (maybe 20%) should have been receiving speech therapy but weren’t because they weren’t in preschool.

    Are we ready for what’s coming? Well, as usual, we will deal with it. Our public schools take all comers and we’re doing so with less – bigger class sizes, less support, and a political culture that is currently vilifying the teaching profession. We’re already dealing with it.

  • Nextset

    LK: There is no evidence pre-school materially changes outcomes of students by secondary school. The Head Start programs research showed head Start was a waste of money on a flawed assumption. Extra money into pre-school is pallative care, it makes parents and perhaps the kiddies feel good. It does not change the outcome of the student.

    So you must understand, all this is coming to an end. Unless the states get the ability to print money, our spending on illegal aliens (seen the prison/jail complex budgets?), welfare and free medical care for addicts, mentally ill, EBT and the likewise consume so much of the budget there will be nothing left for the other social service programs. CA is reaching the end of it’s ability to increase taxes in multiple ways. The voters for the moment will not approve tax increases and by the time they will (parasite voters outnumbering productive voters) the tax base will have fled outside of the state.

    The political system is not paralyzed, it’s working. It’s the tax and spend fantasies of the socialists that aren’t working. The way to keep this going is to drop the constitution and go to a facist totalitarian socialist state. That’s not likely at the moment either – although the democrats are trying.

    So you are going to have to learn to live without other people’s money. My relatives spend $1500/mo for preschool in Oakland. Other friends in LA spend more. If you want preschool for your kid, pay for it yourself or do without. The government is not obligated to provide cadillac services for anyone.

    Brave New World

  • J.R.

    We are being herded of the financial cliff by the public sector elite.


    When you pay union people with no special skills,education or responsibilities exorbitant amounts of compensation(Gardeners,janitors,security guards etc), state bankruptcy is right around the corner.

    Not to mention the parasites(33% of the nations total).

  • Marcia

    There IS evidence that the positive impact of pre-school lasts into adolescence, PROVIDING that the early education a child receives is of high quality. Nextset’s comments about Head Start probably refer to the fact that, unfortunately, too few Head Start programs are of high quality. Given a certain amount of funding the inclination has been to opt for quantity (serving the maximum number of children) over quality (ensuring stability in the child care workforce by paying them decently, hiring trained caregivers etc.). While that’s understandable, it dilutes the impact.
    For one study affirming the lasting impact of HIGH QUALITY care–the distinction is important–see “Do Effects of Early Child Care Extend to Age 15 Years? Results from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development” in the May-June 2010 issue of Child Development.

    The abstract for the article is pasted here: Relations between nonrelative child care (birth to 4½ years) and functioning at age 15 were examined (N = 1,364). Both quality and quantity of child care were linked to adolescent functioning. Effects were similar in size as those observed at younger ages. Higher quality care predicted higher cognitive–academic achievement at age 15, with escalating positive effects at higher levels of quality. The association between quality and achievement was mediated, in part, by earlier child-care effects on achievement. High-quality early child care also predicted youth reports of less externalizing behavior. More hours of nonrelative care predicted greater risk taking and impulsivity at age 15, relations that were partially mediated by earlier child-care effects on externalizing behaviors.

  • Peach

    Marcia is correct. There is ample evidence that the benefits of high quality pre-k and child care persist throughout schooling. High quality Head Start programs, that are scarce at present, provide a leg up to children as long as they attend quality schools. Otherwise the benefits fall off in 3rd grade.

    Every level has to do its part. Isn’t it interesting that there’s always a crisis and we’re always playing catch up. Now we’re gutting, at the same time we’re academicizing, early childhood education. That lets us off the hook for the lack of content,resources, and support for middle and high schools.

    Parents have to work and they were already scrambling to find safe, nurturing places for their children. I hope that this additional set of cuts gets pushed back. In the meantime, the business community should join others in helping employees and their children.

  • LK


    Parasites? Socialists? Facsists? I see where you’re coming from and it’s not worth the effort to engage in a debate.

    To others on this site, it is not possible to debate narrow-minded, dogmatic sorts. Facts and compassion don’t amount to a hill of beans with them. Anyone who would blithely equate a class of human beings to vermin is too far gone down the rabbit hole. I believe there is some level of poverty and suffering that we cannot tolerate as a society, both out of feelings of compassion for our fellow human beings and because the better off all of us are, even the lowliest, the better off we all are. I’m not that old, and I remember seeing old people eating dog food out of cans because that’s what they could afford. Poverty is not a choice and the poor are hardly offered cadillac services (speaking as a person who educates poor children). My comment was a response to Katy’s question re are educators ready for what’s coming. My preamble was a frustrated response to the oft used term “budget crisis” used by the media which obscures the causes of the said crisis. Peach, I agree with you whole-heartedly. We’re always scrambling to catch up while the goal post keeps moving.

  • J.R.

    Facts are not emotion,wishes or compassion. Facts are the reality based on objective criteria, and Nextset is far closer to factual reality than you are on this subject. Who(parents or society) are the ones subjecting children to poverty? What is compassionate about having kids that you cannot support, (allegedly by accident, liked she slipped and fell and ended up pregnant). Compassion or not, this all has to be paid for as nothing in life is truly free.


  • Nextset

    LK: The really sad part of libs is that sooner or later they have to start taking other people’s money by force. That requires a facist government to do so. And that’s what liberalism goes to without fail. You run out of other people’s money that you can talk them into parting with, so you start taking it at the point of a gun – a gun which of course you’d deny the population the right to own.

    So you can present this nonsense as only trying to provide for the children or such. That’s not true and it never was. What all this is really about is Liberal power over other people – Liberal craving to rule by decree.

    The silly tobacco ballot measure is a classic. Everybody would like to stop the proletariat from smoking – face it, the smokers are the proles. So let’s jack the price of a pack of cigarettes up. After all, we give them free health care by forcing the hospitals to see uninsured and treat without regard to payment. If the new taxes only went into the general fund and that was the sole provision of the measure maybne it would pass. Remember, proles by and large don’t vote anyway (because they’re proles). But the measure, crafted by the democratic party created commissions and other such bureaucracy as well as spending programs for education and research that anyone can see is just another slush fund for democratic party campaign staffers during the off periods. Although the proles don’t vote, taxpayers generally do. So let’s see how this works out for the Libs.

    As far as the campaign to get more money to “educate the chillun” in the urban public schools – that requires a level of public support for the schools. That’s been destroyed by liberal policy gone mad to the point that decent people will no longer enroll their children in such places. And in the wake of the Kansas City Experiment (See http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-298.html) – Nobody is fooled anymore by the argument that you can spend your way into making dulls smart. They are what they are.

    As far as your complaint that a debate is not possible – that’s your opinion. It seems you don’t want to have a dialog if you don’t win it and quickly.

    I’d love to see OUSD with enough money to run a set of schools in a tidy and orderly manner. To me that means sorting and grading students so that screwed up people who are not fit for normal classes are not mixed with good kids and good faculty. And I don’t care why the screwed up people are what they are. If you want a public school to work, the students have to have a stake in behaving and performing. Their stake is their continued presence in the good schools and if they fail on either point (deportment or performance) they belong in continuation schools more suitable for their failings. Make this brutally clear to the OUSD kiddies from day one and OUSD will return to it’s level of performance seen in the 1960s. And that includes black performance.

    When it’s sink or swim time everybody takes swimming lessons. And you’re not training for the Olympics, you just need to learn how to stay afloat in the Brave New World.For the record I believe OUSD can get much more out of the black students and won’t do so because they don’t want to make them uncomfortable or deal with the black parent if the kid is found wanting.

    I want OUSD to be a school district where Proles and Middle Class families can send their kids and the kids can chose between Prole classrooms/campuses and College Prep classrooms/campuses – through High School. And in the OUSD I once knew, Proles were graduated ready for work and military enlistment. Upward mobility was possible through both.

    Anyway, look to Europe. Superinflation is waiting, as well as riots in the streets. What happens over there is going to have an effect on economic policy here. If the Democrats can’t raise taxes they normally print money. Superinflation events abroad may make the population here so leery of that that the printing presses are likely going to become a bit regulated. That means big budget cuts – Austerity – ahead for us in all our social programs. We are seeing the beginning of this in the Jerry Brown Budget follies.

    It’s going to hit the urban schools hard. Why give them more money when the Charters are still ready to take more and more of their student caseload for less?

    Internet Classes anyone?

    Brave New World!

  • Cranky Teacher

    J.R., I agree it is kind of obscene how police cash in on unnecessary overtime. However, you’re steady harping on the public employee compensation as the root of our budget and economic problems misses a salient aspect of economics: All this money goes right back out into the economy. Middle class pensioners are spending that money on healthcare, housing, grandkid’s education, etc.

    So, why do you act like the state is throwing the money into a hole or sending it to Nepal?

    There is something wrong with your analysis. Can you complete the circle for me?

    California boomed with high taxation and high investment in infrastructure and is struggling with lower taxation and a shrinking budget. What am I missing?

  • Livegreen

    Marcia and Peach are on target in #4 & 5. All the rest of u on taxes and police overtime are dealing in enormous generalities totally off the subject.

    Let’s get back on track…

  • J.R.

    This is what you are missing,California has amongst the highest tax burden of all the states(we might be at the top after November).



    private sector economy is almost the polar opposite of public sector in every regard(benefit vs cost,self sustaining vs dependent true market cost wage pressure vs artificial non existent wage pressure. As a result of a lack of controls, the debt burden is out of control and yet we continue to kick the can down the road.



    California has the largest proportion of people on public assistance(actual financial cost are huge, but societal ills that come along with it are staggering).



    Livgreen, these cuts are here because the state is drowning in red ink and massive debt(and the interest on that as well). So therefore this is THE reason, and thus related.

  • Nextset

    No tax increases will be enough to complete the showering of unearned benefits on the objects of liberal bounty. So there is no point in voting any of the tax increases. It will be interesting to see what the libs do next when they fail and the budget cuts are upon them.

  • Jim Mordecai


    I looked at your first reference. It indicates California is 6th in its calculation of tax burden not the highest.

    What it does indicate to me is that California doesn’t tax enough to address its debt. It doesn’t tax out of state non-residents to the degree it could. California for example doesn’t have an oil depletion tax that could cut into the debt problem.

    California needs to stop cutting its budgets and create government jobs and end its current cycle of job cuts and increasing debt. Its job cuts also cuts government revenue adding to the government debt. Promise that cutting job would create jobs is false because government cuts government income from tax receipts.

    What we have here is an agreement on the problem of too much debt but the solution Cranky and I have in mind differ.

    Jim Mordecai

    6. California
    Taxes paid by residents as pct. of income: 10.6%
    Total state and local taxes collected: $354 billion
    Pct. of total taxes paid by residents: 82.5%
    Pct. of total taxes paid by non-residents: 17.5%

    California is exceptional in many ways when it comes to taxing its residents. The state has the highest statewide sales tax in the country, currently 8.25%. It also has the highest tax on gas, charging 46.6 cents per gallon. The state collects among the lowest amount of taxes from non-residents and business out of

  • J.R.

    I agree with you on one item only, the oil extraction tax, but that is a proverbial drop in the bucket compared to what this state needs. California has a huge spending problem, not a tax revenue problem. Productive jobs are created businesses small and large, Government(in and of itself) creates very few crucial necessary jobs. Think about the fact that when government workers pay taxes, they are only putting money back into the revenue stream from which they originated, which is more or less a wash. In contrast private sector taxpayers bring in money that originated from created wealth outside the tax revenue stream. This is the true economic engine of this state and country.

  • Jim Mordecai


    Cutting government jobs reduces tax revenue from both the governmental worker and those that sell services and products to salaried governmental workers.

    In terms of tax revenue, whether the job is productive or not is moot. And, defining what is productive is also subjective reflecting one’s values.

    The oil tax issue is, I agree with you, a drop in the bucket.

    Taxing services would not be a drop in the bucket. And, I support the Robin Hood tax on financial transactions.

    But, I am against cuts and would like to see them start with our military. And, I support closing our world-wide military bases and giving up on being the largest military power on earth. So what if the USA isn’t #1 in military might.

    Meanwhile, when the private sector can’t provide jobs because of governmental cuts due to lower taxes, I want the government to provide jobs for those that want to work.

    Jim Mordecai

  • J.R.

    I agree on the military cuts, we do not need to be the policeman for the world. On the flip side we need to trust, and encourage and give entrepreneurs incentives to create, and bring back jobs to our shores(the more American citizens you employ, the lower your tax burden will be). We need smaller government that performs the limited functions it was designed to do, not a government that is an employment agency. Make-work jobs are nothing more than debt obligations that are added to the national debt which are passed on to our children(and theirs). Not really helpful at all, just more can kicking.

  • livegreen

    The argument is not just CA state taxes vs. spending. More taxes vs. less taxes.

    It’s HOW we tax.
    It is also how we spend & cut. & Education is simply NOT a priority for EITHER the Republicans OR the Democrats. The proof is in the pudding.

    The Republicans do not want to touch medium & large business or the wealthy.

    The Democrats don’t want to touch benefits or pensions for State Workers.

    Nobody is protecting teachers, students, PROVIDING legitimate government services, OR the private sector middle class. Again, the proof is this is what & who is losing year after year.

    Why? Simple: because we’re not paying the politicians to get elected.

    PS. The reason the private sector middle class is so important is that it pays most taxes. It’s erosion has lowered the tax base for the country AND the public sector.

    Taxing the wealthy more will help. But Gov. Brown is not proposing enough to either help the budget deficit, help education or help the middle class.

  • livegreen

    It’s always curious to me how teachers & the OEA defend all public service unions as if they’re brothers in arms. But when it comes to actually helping out teachers or school budgets that directly impact teachers, the other unions are nowhere to be found.

    Again, the proof in the pudding is that in Oakland almost every public sector employee is paid competitively vs. other municipalities. Oakland teachers, though, are paid less.

  • J.R.

    Livegreen, wrote:
    “PS. The reason the private sector middle class is so important is that it pays most taxes”.

    Not true at all, the wealthy carry most of the tax burden:



  • livegreen

    That’s income tax, not all taxes. That’s not accounting for state or local taxes. Especially Property & Sales taxes (both arguably regressive, yet which Oakland relies on tremendously).

  • Jim Mordecai


    How to align yourself on charter schools?

    Your statement here sounds libertarian: “On the flip side we need to trust, and encourage and give entrepreneurs incentives to create, and bring back jobs to our shores(the more American citizens you employ, the lower your tax burden will be)”

    Concept of charter school is that public money is given to private management and their is little oversight but a concern about results measured in test scores — sometimes. Most of the Gulen network schools are reported to mostly have good scores but Oakland’s Gulen Bay Technology schools didn’t make AYP when I looked.

    The problem with a narrow focus on test scores is that other problems exist besides test scores. One would be staffing favoring a cult from another country or this country.

    But, as 60 minute segment showed the critics of Gulen network of over 130 Gulen charter schools across the U.S.A identified misuse of Green Cards by the Turkish Gulen networked charter schools. On 60 minutes a male Gulen screened Turk was brought to a U.S. Gulen charter school to teach English. As if there is a shortage of American English teachers in this economic of job cuts and college graduates without jobs. 60 minutes also showed one former Gulen charter school teacher testifying that he had to kick back a percentage of his salary to the organization.

    Imam Gulen may be a great entrepreneur but a liability to those qualified American teachers without jobs.

    Jim Mordecai

  • J.R.

    I’m a pragmatist(results based)I think ideas based political ideology are shallow train of thought in most cases. I don’t believe in test scores(except to pinpoint what students are struggling with)in conjunction with rigorous(not necessarily large quantity class and homework). I have spent many hours noting the differences of different classroom environments(public,charter) and have found that excellent,caring teachers make a massive difference, especially to children in their formative years. The strengths of charters are:
    The zero tolerance policy toward disrespect and off task behavior of pupils. This is true of charters that perform well, and even those that don’t.
    If the teachers is not “on top of” all facets of teaching best practices, their job is in jeopardy(there are no lazy,distracted,disengaged,apathetic teachers in charters for very long). In my opinion many of these kids benefit from charters differences.

    Irregardless, I believe that charters that fail to perform after a reasonable time should be closed.

    The strength of public schools are:

    They teach every child without exception

    They have mostly good teachers, and some who are just incredibly gifted(although due to union rules, how good you are does not matter one iota(and that shows in the results we’ve had over the last four decades.

    I think all instances of waste fraud and abuse of taxpayer money should be swiftly prosecuted, but there has been so much in public schools over the years(even with the supposed oversight). No public school administrator or official in any capacity has ever faced very stiff penalties for violating public trust( as a matter of fact many times they are given a golden parachute pension(courtesy of the hapless taxpayers).

    I am really glad you are watching out for taxpayer money though, I just wish you would cast a wider net than just charter school malfeasance.